[LINK] 'UK Committee Suggests Libel Rules For Websites'
Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au
Fri Oct 21 17:24:43 AEDT 2011
[The details need to be thought through carefully, but the good news
is that this UK Parltry Ctee seems to be doing some of precisely
UK Committee Suggests Libel Rules For Websites
October 20, 2011
A [UK] parliamentary committee suggests websites should be required
to remove anonymous libels
A joint Parliamentary committee has said that websites should have
protection from defamation cases if they respond swiftly to allegedly
libellous comments from anonymous posters.
It says that websites which identify authors and publish complaints
alongside comments should get legal protection.
The recommendation is part of a wider review into the UK's defamation
laws aimed at promoting free speech and reducing the "unacceptably"
high costs of libel cases. Currently, websites are liable for
defamatory statements made by their users and if they fail to remove
a comment which prompts a complaint, they risk becoming the "primary
publisher" of the statement.
The committee proposes a "notice and takedown procedure" whereby
complaints are displayed alongside the offending comments and the
complainant can then apply for a takedown order at a court, as long
as the author is identified. If a website does not comply, then they
should be treated as the publisher of the comment.
However anonymous comments should still be immediately removed from
the website unless the author volunteers their identity. Conversely,
websites can apply for a "leave-up" order if they believe an
anonymous comment is on a matter of "significant" public interest.
Anonymity "discourages responsibility"
The committee has criticised anonymous comments saying that although
they may "encourage free speech", they "discourage responsibility"
and hopes that such reforms would lead to a general recognition that
such posts are unreliable.
However Mumsnet co-founder Justine Roberts told the BBC that many of
its users rely on using user names as opposed to their real name as
it provides them with the freedom to speak honestly about difficult
The site currently receives about ten complaints a month, a figure it
fears would increase should the committee's recommendations be
The Committee has also proposed the introduction of a "single
publication rule" which would give potential claimants only one year
from the allegedly defamatory material's date of publication to
launch libel action. Currently this year-long window of opportunity
restarts every time an article is downloaded or accessed from the
The report is published amid a backdrop of an ongoing debate about
libel laws in the UK. In May, the British High Court issued an
injunction to Facebook and Twitter that prevented them from
publishing damaging information online and in August, Atos
Healthcare, the company responsible for doling out government
incapacity benefit, began threatening legal action against websites
and forums which aggregated patient's experiences, accusing them of
Roger Clarke http://www.rogerclarke.com/
Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd 78 Sidaway St, Chapman ACT 2611 AUSTRALIA
Tel: +61 2 6288 1472, and 6288 6916
mailto:Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au http://www.xamax.com.au/
Visiting Professor in the Cyberspace Law & Policy Centre Uni of NSW
Visiting Professor in Computer Science Australian National University
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